<i>La palabra es salud</i>: A comparative study of the effectiveness of popular education vs. traditional education for enhancing health knowledge and skills and increasing empowerment among parish-based Community Health Workers
Popular education is a mode of teaching and learning which seeks to bring about more equitable social conditions by creating settings in which people can identify and solve their own problems. While the public health literature offers evidence to suggest that popular education is an effective strategy for increasing empowerment and improving health, there have been no systematic attempts to compare the outcomes of popular education to those of traditional education. The goal of La Palabra es Salud was to conduct such a comparison among Latino, parish-based Community Health Workers (CHWs). The study employed a quasi-experimental design, mixed methods, and a community-based participatory research (CBPR) framework.
Results of a mixed factorial ANOVA revealed that both experimental groups made statistically significant gains in health knowledge when compared to a control group. Within-group comparisons showed that the popular education (PE) group made statistically significant improvements in self-reported ability to promote health, critical consciousness, and on a global measure of empowerment, while the traditional education (TE) group made significant gains in critical consciousness, control at the personal level, self-reported health status, and self-reported health behavior. Because the TE group was almost twice as large as the PE group, almost identical changes that achieved significance in the TE group did not achieve significance in the PE group. Results of the qualitative analysis validated the quantitative results, with members of the TE group reporting improvements in health knowledge and behavior while members of the PE group reported increased empowerment and ability to empower others.
Our findings suggest that, when compared to traditional education, popular education can help participants develop a deeper sense of empowerment and community and more multi-faceted skills and understandings, with no accompanying sacrifice in the acquisition of knowledge. These results have their most direct implications for the education of adults from disempowered communities, where popular education shows promise for supporting community members to identify and organize around shared concerns. More broadly, the research suggests that wider use of popular education in mainstream educational settings could promote greater inclusion and increased success for students who have experienced marginalization, producing a more equitable society.
0516: Adult education
0680: Health education